Tuesday, December 02, 2014

My Weight Loss Adventure

Am I the only one who feels like the term "weight loss journey" is overused?  It's probably a decent enough description for the kind of path that it takes to get in shape once you've gained a lot of weight, but it's become such a cliche.  "My journey is only beginning" say the Biggest Loser contestants, or "at this point in my journey, I'm learning . . ."  I wish we had better language for this kind of long-term purpose-driven goal.

But since we don't, I'll cheat by calling this post "My Weight Loss Adventure" instead of journey.  I originally wanted to share some advice and tips for losing weight and keeping it off, but I decided to start by sharing my experiences first.  I've decided to put in my actual weights in where I remember them in the hopes that some will find it helpful or motivating.  I'm 5'5 and according to the BMI table (not the best measure of fitness, I know), my top weight should be 150.  So that's been my goal for years.

After my first baby in 1999, the pregnancy weight came off pretty fast without much thought or effort on my part.

Not the best picture of either of us, but whatever

I took it for granted that would be the case in the future, but sadly, after my second baby and a bout of post-partum depression, I seemed to gain a little more with each pregnancy that wouldn't come off. I don't gain a ton of weight with pregnancy itself typically, but it doesn't melt off like I wish it would afterwards.

After my third child born in three years, I was determined that I was going to lose weight.  So I did everything I thought I needed to.  I joined an aerobics group.  I walked for miles with three kids packed into a double stroller.   I didn't track my eating, but I did try to keep the calories down.  And .  . . I stayed the exact same weight no matter how hard I worked.  It was very frustrating.  

In 2002, I found out I had Hashimoto's, a condition where my immune system had begun attacking my thyroid.  The thyroid is a tiny gland that produces hormones responsible for metabolism, energy levels, and brain chemistry, among other things.  So it started to make sense that I struggled so much.

Over the next decade, I exercised regularly (aerobic videos and walking mostly) and tried to feel good about having good fitness despite being overweight.  I was busy with a young family and while I wished I were thinner, I never felt bad about my body.  I was in good enough shape to keep up with my family, and if I had a few extra pounds, so what?  I figured I looked like a mom who'd had a few pregnancies.  I did try to lose weight several times with limited success.

After the twins were born in 2004, I actually ended that pregnancy lower than I'd been in years.  I joined an online fitness group where we checked in with our workouts and progress (internet forums were the rage back then), and it kept me in good shape, even if I didn't lose anything.

I gained ten pounds in the four months after I quit nursing the twins.  I think I'd gotten into the habit of being able to snack on whatever I liked while nursing.  I probably would have worried more, but after four months of not nursing, I was pregnant again.  Eliza, our sixth, arrived in October of 2006.

For the next few years, my weight fluctuated up and down with more pregnancies.  I'd lose five pounds here and there, but nothing consistent.  Harmony arrived in 2008.

Running a Mile
June 2009

My first big break for weight-loss was in the summer of 2009.  With Harmony finally sleeping through the night, I decided to hit the fitness a little harder.  I'd been walking in the neighborhood and on the treadmill, but I started doing short intervals of running.  I'd never been a runner in my life, so it was a new experience and it wasn't one I really enjoyed at first.  It did feel great to be making some progress, though.  Over the course of a couple of months, I built up to being able to run three miles at a time. I also lost twelve pounds, signed up for my first 5K, and became pregnant with my eighth child.  It was a busy time, but other than the morning sickness I was feeling great.

October 2009, a week before my first 5K
After Katie was born, my fitness took a turn for the worse.  She was my worst sleeper ever and I was drowning.  I was mostly just enduring and trying to lose weight was the last thing on my priority list.  I gained a lot after she was born and those months and months of accumulated sleep deprivation were discouraging and frustrating.  

Come January of 2011, I was determined to finally get in shape and lose weight, whatever it took.  I decided to give myself a couple of months to try it on my own and then if I didn't have success, I would sign up for Weight Watchers.

Well, despite my best efforts, I gained weight in the next few months.  But I hated the thought of the expense of Weight Watchers and I put it off.

Weight Watchers & My First Half Marathon 

In first weeks of March, we went to California.  It was when we got home and I weighed myself and saw the photos from that trip that I decided it was time to do whatever it took.

I signed up for a half marathon and Weight Watchers.  Both of them scared me to death.

My "Before" Picture -- weighing in at about 215 lbs!
I was highly motivated on Weight Watchers.  For one thing, I hate wasting money so I had to make sure I got all the value out of the program I could.  It also helped me realize how to really evaluate my eating and food choices.  I was amazed at how many points certain "healthy" items were, and I got into the habit of eating more fruits and vegetables.  I felt hungry a lot, but I was so motivated I didn't care -- just more loss on the scale for the next week.  At the time, the program involved a daily point allotment for food, plus weekly flex points to use however you liked -- on one big indulgent meal or a few snacks at a time.  You could also earn extra activity points for exercise, and I made it a point not to use all the activity points I earned.  

I'd been running since January, but March saw me building up training for that half marathon.  I wrote a few times about it.  The first time I ran six miles I was so proud of myself.  It still scared me, but after about eight weeks into my training, I even started to enjoy some of my runs.  And all that running added to my weight loss.  I was losing 2-4 lbs each week and feeling amazing.  

Early April, Down 10 lbs

In Chicago with Joey and Katie.

After 10 weeks, I'd lost 28 lbs.  It felt awesome.  I was finally making consistent progress.

I lost another 7 lbs (35 lbs total!) and ran that half marathon.  It felt awesome.
Utah Valley Half Marathon, 2011.  Down 35 lbs.
And then, I had a take a break from the weight loss because of pregnancy.  I didn't stop running, though, and ran my first (and so far only) marathon later that year.  I still weighed 30 lbs more than the BMI table said I should, but I was content with my progress.
My "After Picture" -- August 2011, Mesa Falls Marathon.
Nearing the finish line.
Since 2011, I've run at least one half marathon every year, and usually several of them.  Eventually, I'll do another full marathon, but I've decided halfs are about right for me.  The training involved takes much less time, the recovery is better and it just fits in my life better.

I've had some ups and down with weight loss over the last couple of years.  I gained some weight with Cami's pregnancy, obviously, but I joined weight watchers again after she was born, ran a half marathon when she was four months old, and got within ten pounds of my weight goal.

Summer 2012.  160!  
And then, my health took a horrible turn, I had to take some medication temporarily while they tried to get my thyroid back in balance, and I ended up gaining thirty pounds in two months.  Seriously discouraging.

Progress in Spurts

In 2013, I started the year back at 190 (I'd gotten down to 160 the summer before).  And the weight didn't just melt off despite my best efforts.  I lost about ten pounds the first few months when I was really trying hard to track and stay within my calories (I don't use Weight Watchers anymore, instead I used an app called MyFitnessPal).  Then I stopped tracking consistently and spent the summer losing and gaining the same five pounds. I kept thinking all the running would just let the weight melt off, but instead, I just stayed steady.

January 2013.  So frustrated to be needing to lose 40 lbs AGAIN!
Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon, April 2013.  Down to about 180 again.
Utah Valley Half Marathon, June 2012

I think by this point, my body had adapted to running so it didn't burn as many calories, plus my body is really, really good at increasing my hunger when I do run.  That summer, I learned that with some care, I could trust my body to help me stay the same weight, but that I really needed to work hard if I wanted to lose.  

Running the Wasatch Back Ragnar, June 2013
Summer 2013, around 175ish, 25 lbs to goal weight

"Eight weeks to Hawaii" Challenge
Finally, last November, I decided it was time again to really push the weight loss.  My husband and I had a trip to Hawaii planned (it was an amazing trip and our first without a baby along).  I had eight weeks before our trip and I was determined to lose 10 or 15 lbs.  I tracked everything I ate on the MyFitnessPal app and I started exercising six days a week instead of just running four days a week.  I did P90X every other day and ran on the off days.  It was the first time in a while that I'd done weight training and it was hard to adapt to at first.  I never did get good enough to do all the ab workouts in the P90X Abs.  

In any case, with the extra focus, I was able to pull off a 10 lb weight loss just before Hawaii.  But even better than that, I've kept up the six-day-a-week exercise schedule for over a year now.  I dropped P90X after Christmas, but I've done a good variety of other kinds of exercise this year in addition to running.
Kauai, December 2014.  About 170 lbs, 20 lbs from goal weight.

Making little bits of progress & staying fit

Of course, I gained a bit in Hawaii and started the year around 175.  I've been working towards my eventual goal of 150 lbs all year long, with varying levels of success and focus.  I've found that while in the past, I could attack weight loss with focus and effort and lose well, the closer I get to my goal weight, the harder my body fights me for the pounds.  

I lost ten pounds and ran a 10K in March.

Rex Lee 10K in March, about 17 lbs from goal weight
Then I ran a half marathon in May.

Don't let that smile fool you.  I hated this run -- I'd been sick all week and could hardly sleep for congestion.  I almost decided to bag the race, but, you know, all that training . . . I finished with a PR of 2:15:30 (10:20 ave. pace), but swore off halfs for the rest of the year.
I took a break from weight loss (though not from fitness) for a good part of the summer, then I was able to successfully challenge my husband for the ten weeks before my birthday.  My final weight on our challenge was 156, just six pounds away from my long-term goal of 150.
Visiting the zoo in June

Right before the Moab Adventure 5K.  156 pounds, down almost 60 lbs. from my heaviest.
I got pretty burned out on counting calories and tracking during that last challenge and I told my husband I'm going to take a break for a while.  It's been nice to try to eat to my hunger cues rather than to my calorie allotment, though I confess I'm up a few pounds after Thanksgiving.  But I'm back on track with good eating this week and I'm looking forward to another healthy year where I finally get to my goal and then work on maintaining it.

Next week, I'll post some of the things I've learned over the past few years, along with some advice for those who are trying to lose weight.  I hope this is helpful and motivating.


Janie said...

I've been a long time reader (found your blog through my cousin Chalice), but I think this is my first comment! Thank you for writing this, it's definitely inspiring. I only have 2 kids, but I'm 70 lbs heavier than I was when I got married and I would love to lose it, but the thought of having to lose so much weight is daunting. I just can't bring myself to start. Looking at your hard work and success makes me think that maybe, just maybe, it's possible. :) I am looking forward to reading your post about tips and tricks.

DinaJ said...

You did a great job documenting that! Weight loss is so hard. Especially with medication issues in the mix. My DH used an app on his phone as well and it really kept him accountable. I think most people do not have any idea how many calories they are eating and if they only focus on fitness, like you said, you get hungrier and do not see progress. IT'S HARD TO BE HUNGRY! Great job!

bjahlstrom said...

This IS very motivating. I, too, have been working on being healthier, in general. I am also 5'5" and have a goal weight of 150. I joined a gym, and started focusing my eating on more veg and whole grains. So far, so good, but yes, losing weight is just plain hard.

I am curious about your overall philosophy about weight and body image. I have heard several people (well-known bloggers, included) share strong opinions that, in essence, it doesn't matter how much you weigh; it matters that you love yourself, and it is a bad thing to focus on weight loss and the number of pounds you are or want to be. Personally, I think this is silly, but I can't pinpoint why, and I don't know where my personal opinions even originate. It is possible I simply have given in to "society's" messages of beauty and thin women (?).

I feel that although women tend to rely on the number on the scale for their self-esteem, and that is a bad thing, still, a healthy weight IS important.

I won't write a blog post here, but I was still curious how you felt about weight, in terms of a life philosophy. Obviously you are not scared to discuss numbers, make numeric goals, etc. Do you think people DO look better when they are at a lower weight? (I think you look great!) But is that just learned prejudice telling me that? Seriously, though, I think you look really good.

Good job!

Amber Gregory said...

^^^^ (In regard to one of the other comments) I think part of loving yourself, and being happy with yourself, also means striving to be healthy. Whether we like it or not, weight and health ARE tied together, and feeling great DOES mean being at a healthy weight. It's not about bashing fat people at ALL! It's about being happy with ourselves at optimum health. I mean, that's my interpretation of things.

Of course, I'm a skinny person, but I work with exercise and watching my calories to maintain that. I certainly wouldn't feel very healthy if I allowed myself to become overweight. I can't imagine how tired and sub-optimal I'd feel. That isn't society telling me that. That's me knowing how much worse I feel every day with 15 more pounds hanging around. There's definitely fitness with extra weight hanging on -- but there's really a higher level of overall, everyday health and energy that comes with being at an optimum weight for our height that can't be beat. That's my opinion anyway.

But just because you're overweight doesn't mean you shouldn't LOVE who you are! It just also means you shouldn't stop striving -- whether you're fat or skinny or whatever!

That's my philosophy anyway. :)

Christina - you look fantastic and you look like you feel fantastic, which IS the most important part. And the way you've set realistic goals and attacked them -- very inspiring. Yay running!

Laura H said...

I'm so excited for you! Good job pushing through the hard stuff. I'm on the weight loss journey too--and I kept it real by putting my real weight in (bleck!) on a Weigh-in Wednesday.

I've discovered that (for me at least) I have to learn to recognize why I'm eating and eat for the right reasons. I also realized that I need to focus on the things I'm grateful for in this weight loss journey so I don't get discouraged by setbacks. I'm so excited to realize that I've gained a great deal of confidence in seeing the progress I'm making and recognizing that I have some good ideas of how to lose weight slowly but surely.

So for me it's 10 lbs down and about 40 lbs to go.... HURRAY!

Jenny Evans said...

Keep it up, Christina! You're looking great. I appreciate mostly the fact that you shared real numbers, real photos, and real setbacks that you faced. It's easier to hide behind our computers and pretend that our sparkly bloggy lives are perfect, but accurate honesty helps motivate and inspire people facing the same challenges. (I'm talking about everything, not just weight loss/health.)

PurpleSlob InRecovery said...

Thank you for being real! Ive struggled with weigjt every since college. I was 160 for 4 years. Looked great felt great. After 2 preg. Just up and up. 2 years ago, my highest weight ever- 386, after my knee surgery. Im now at 290 and feeling so much better! I look better and have more energy too. I lost the last 50 lbs be going gluten free. I haven't even started exercise yet. But that's my next goal.
Also decluttering my life and having a peaceful home for first time ever, has helped.
I have thyroid too. Keep up the great work!


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